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Inaugural Committees Announce Speakers From Faith Communities

With fewer than two weeks until President Barack Obama’s public swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 21, the two main coordinating committees are rolling out in rapid succession various announcements about who will be participating in the official events throughout the day.

On Tuesday, the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies unveiled the names of the spiritual and ceremonial participants.

While the PIC is responsible for overseeing details of the general inaugural festivities, including the programming of the swearing-in ceremony, the joint congressional committee oversees the logistics of the events that take place on the Capitol grounds.

As Inauguration Day is set this year to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it is fitting that a figure close to the civil rights movement — Myrlie Evers-Williams — has been selected by PIC to deliver the inaugural invocation.

Evers-Williams is a former chairwoman of the NAACP, serving from 1995 to 1998, and she holds the distinction of being the first black woman to lead the Southern California Democratic Women’s Division. She is the author of three books on the civil rights movement and is currently a distinguished scholar at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss.

She is also the widow of Medgar Evers, the NAACP Mississippi field secretary who was assassinated in front of his home in Jackson, Miss., in 1963. Evers-Williams fought to bring his killer to justice and ultimately succeeded in seeing Byron De La Beckwith convicted — 30 years after the fact.

“I am humbled to have been asked to deliver the invocation for the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States — especially in light of this historical time in America when we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement,” Evers-Williams said in a statement. “It is indeed an exhilarating experience to have the distinct honor of representing that era.”

The PIC also announced Tuesday that the Rev. Louie Giglio has been chosen to deliver the benediction at the inaugural ceremony at the Capitol. Giglio is the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta. As founder of Passion Conferences, “a movement gathering college-aged young people … in events across the country and around the world,” Giglio recently led 60,000 people at the Georgia Dome in prayer against human trafficking.

Obama was involved in the selection of both Evers-Williams and Giglio to convene over his swearing in and that of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“Their voices have inspired many people across this great nation within the faith community and beyond,” Obama said in a release. “Their careers reflect the ideals that the Vice President and I continue to pursue for all Americans — justice, equality, and opportunity.”

The JCCIC announced Tuesday that Rev. Luis Cortés will lead the opening prayer at the inaugural luncheon that the committee hosts in the Rotunda following the swearing-in ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol.

The founder of Esperanza, the largest Hispanic faith-based evangelical network in the United States that combats poverty and crime, Cortés has “dedicated his life to making his community, his country and the world a better place,” said Chairman Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., in a statement announcing the choice.

“I … am thrilled that he will play a key role in these historic events,” he added.

Schumer picked Archbishop Demetrios of America to deliver the benediction at the luncheon, calling him a “tremendous and respected leader to millions in the Greek Orthodox community in every corner of the United States.”

Demetrios is the primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and the chairman of the Assembly of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.

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